Journalists under legal and criminal harassment: Kalúa Salazar and David Quintana
On 22 March 2021, Kalúa Salazar, journalist and press chief of Radio La Costeñísima, denounced that at least ten agents of the Special Operations Directorate Police (DOEP) besieged her home located in the Beholden neighborhood of Bluefields, in the Nicaraguan Caribbean, where she was staying with her family.
Salazar faces a judicial process for allegedly committing “slander” to the detriment of workers of the Mayor’s Office of El Rama. On 23 September 2020 she was found guilty by Judge Deyanira Traña and sentenced to 120 day of jail. However, a few weeks ago, accusation lawyer Denis José Báez Sevil, requested that the sentence be extended to 300 days. Salazar points out that her case is “political” and that the judgment has unjustly privileged the Mayor’s Office workers.
Since 2019, the police have visited Salazar’s home on several occasions. However, she denounced that since the beginning of this year, police qagents have been permanently surveilling her house.
Meanwhile, Boletín Ecológico director David Quintana faced an appeal hearing in Managua after being sentenced to 200 days of jail on February 17. He is also accused of “slander”, for covering an eviction event that occurred in the capital on 17 June 2020.
Although Nicaraguan law (Art. 131, Penal Code) states that crimes like slander and defamation need to be denounced by the victim within thirty days, the judicial process against Quintana began five months after the alleged events.
Human Rights Council Resolution
On 23 March 2021, the UN Human Rights Council approved a Resolution on the promotion and protection of Human Rights in Nicaragua, which condemns the repression and harassment of journalists and activists.
The Human Rights Council calls on the Nicaraguan government to reestablish civic spaces. It condemns the persistence of bans on public demonstrations, and the disproportionate use of force by Ortega’s police to repress social protests. Repression involves acts of intimidation, harassment and illegal or arbitrary surveillance of journalists, human rights defenders and minority groups.
The Resolution addresses freedom of press and expression, highlighting that a growing number of civil society organizations and media are being forced to cease their activities due to financial restrictions. It also highlights the “arbitrary cancellation of their legal records, and the impact of these closures (…) on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, association, and the right to privacy”. The Resolution urges “the Government of Nicaragua to restore legality in the process of registration of civil society organizations and independent media, which were forced to close since 2018 (…)”.
Translation: Alessandro Zagato, Artist at Risk -ARC- PEN America. Regional representative for Latin America – Encargado regional para America Latina